Etiquette For Massage Therapy Clients

Sometimes, it can be a bit confusing for a massage client to figure out how they are supposed to act. Surprisingly, it’s really not that hard! Most of the tips you will find below are just common sense. Your massage therapist will lead you through the session, so don’t stress too much about what you should do. Listed below are different things you can do before, during, and between sessions.



Image by Focus Physical Therapy & Wellness




A massage therapist’s job is to be closed in a room with another person for an entire hour and have our hands on their bodies. It’s common courtesy to clean up before your massage, especially if you’ve been doing physical activity. Think about it: would you want to give a massage to someone who was covered in sweat, or smelled terrible?


Clip Your Toe Nails

Long, unkempt toe nails can cause cuts or injury to the therapist’s hands while she handles your feet. Again, it’s just common courtesy. I personally do not touch the toes of clients who do not take care of their nails. This results in an incomplete foot massage, but even those of us in health care fields need to put our own safety first.


Shave Your Legs

Or don’t. Whether or not your legs are shaved does not matter at all to your therapist. This is something women worry about more than men because we live in a society where women are not considered beautiful if they have hair anywhere on their body besides their head. However, remember that massage therapists treat men who are covered in hair, so if you have some stubble on your legs or armpits, it literally does not make a difference whatsoever


Use the Restroom

This is for your benefit. You can get the most out of your massage if you are as comfortable as possible. If you have to pee the whole time, it can put a damper on your relaxation.


Think of Questions

Your therapist should give you time before the massage begins to ask her questions, so have them ready before you arrive. This is easier than trying to think of them on the spot. Of course, it’s fine if you don’t have questions, too.


Plan to Arrive Early

Therapeutic relationships rely on mutual respect, so you should be respectful of your therapist’s time, and vice versa. If it is your first session with your therapist, you will need to fill out a health history form. At each session, your therapist should spend a few minutes with you before beginning the massage to catch up on your progress and any new goals you may have.  For this reason, you should arrive 10-15 minutes before your session.


Reschedule if You’re Not Feeling Well

Once again, this is common courtesy. If you have a communicable illness, it is common sense to stay home. You could get your therapist or her other clients sick as well.




Keep Your Muscles Relaxed

It’s hard to keep your muscles totally relaxed when someone is moving your body. Massage therapists may need to move your neck, arms, or legs to get at hard-to-reach areas. It can feel unnatural to allow someone to move you like this without resisting, but it’s important that you do. Your muscles cannot benefit from massage if they are tensed.


Relax Your Mind

Most massage therapists ask their clients not to talk during the session unless it’s important. However, it is important for us to recognize that when a client is talking during the session, a lot of the time they are trying to make themselves more comfortable. Talking helps some people feel more comfortable in a situation where they feel vulnerable. Some people talk to avoid racing thoughts. Do what you need to do to put your mind in a more quieting space.



Let your therapist know what she can do to make you more comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, you get the most out of your massage if you are comfortable, and it is the therapist’s job to ensure that you get this comfort. Speak up if:

  • Your therapist is using too much pressure or not enough
  • The music is too soft or loud
  • The room is too hot or too cold
  • The bolster or face cradle needs to be adjusted
  • You would like the table warmer turned on or off
  • You would like your therapist to focus on an area, or skip it
  • Anything else that would make you more comfortable


Allow Yourself to Fall Asleep

Some people do and some people don’t. Either way is fine. Don’t fight dreamland if you feel it coming on. This only takes away from your relaxation.


Act Appropriately

Massage can be a sensual experience, but you should not confuse it with a sexual one. Do not try to take advantage of your therapist. This can have serious implications for your therapist’s practice, and your future as a massage client.




Tipping Etiquette

Tipping is never required, but do keep in mind that massage therapists who work at a spa can make as little as 20% commission per massage, and only perform as many as 20 massages per week. In these cases, it is normal for clients to tip 20%-25%. It is not necessary to tip that high when the therapist is self-employed. She keeps 100% of her commission, save for the rent that she pays. In these cases, you should pay what you thought the massage was worth.


Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking water keeps the cells of your body plump and healthy. Dehydration causes cells to shrivel and dry out. Your muscles are 75% water, and when the cells are dehydrated, it can cause muscle cramps among other, more serious side effects.



Image by FITDAY



Stretching relieves muscles tension and increases your range of motion, which helps prevent injuries. Stretching also improves your posture as it allows your muscles to open up. Plus, it just feels really good.


Pay Attention to Posture

Poor posture causes strain on your muscles, effectively eliminating all of the benefits of the massage you just received.


Follow the Advice of Your Therapist

Once you tell your massage therapist where you’re feeling pain and what is causing it, she should give you advice on how to manage the pain in between sessions. Your massage therapist cannot help you if you do not help yourself. Massage has limited effectiveness on pain management if the cause of the pain remains.


Call Your Therapist If You Have Persistent Soreness

It is normal to feel sore for up to 24 hours after a massage if you’ve had a deep tissue massage. If the pain is excessive, or if it doesn’t go away two days after your massage, call your therapist. She will ask questions about the tenderness you feel in order to figure out exactly what is causing it, and then give you advice on the next step to take. It is very rare that someone needs to visit the doctor after receiving a massage. Most issues can be taken care of at home.



Dehydration Effects by Muscle Pain Solution

The Benefits of Stretching by FitDay


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

One response to “Etiquette For Massage Therapy Clients

  1. Pingback: One Year of The Wellness Seeker! | The Wellness Seeker

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